Cotswold Ways: Down into Painswick Valley and back up again to the Beacon
A varied stroll down into the Painswick Valley and then up to Painswick Beacon and beyond in search of King Eddel of Gloucester
October is the month of Halloween, but the ghostly sighting we bring you this time is an unusual one. No highwayman, monk, or grey lady, this one – but a more royal shade. Painswick may be famous for the ghost of King Charles I, who stayed at the Court House during the Siege of Gloucester, but this ghost is far older. His tale takes us into the mists of time to the so-called Dark Ages.
Just below the Royal William pub at Cranham is Eddel’s Lane. Who was Eddel? Some say he was earl of Gloucester in the years before King Arthur, the only survivor of the vicious treachery against the British lords at Stonehenge committed by Anglo-saxon invader Hengist and his henchmen. In Gloucestershire another tale is told. This Eddel lived a century later, in the sixth century, and was king of Gloucester. Like other rulers of the British kingdoms of the Dobunni, in Cirencester and Bath, his task was to hold off the invading Saxons.
The area was in a constant state of war. When the leader of the West Saxons suggested a parley, Eddel leapt at the chance of peace. The meeting was held at Cranham. Was it down by the stream near Eddell’s Mill? Or up on the Iron Age hill fort on Painswick Beacon? Wherever it was, the parley was a ruse. The Saxons brought wine – as a peace offering, they said, but really to get the British drunk. As they slumbered, the Saxons attacked. Eddel managed to grab a hedgepost and beat off his attackers, but he was the lucky one. Most of the nobles of Gloucester were dead and the city was soon under attack.
This treacherous Saxon victory wasn’t the end of the Dobunni. They held out for another seven years until the kings of Gloucester, Bath, and Cirencester all fell at the Battle of Dyrham, near Bath, in AD 577. That’s another story and another walk!
No longer a king, Eddel became a hermit in the locale of his defeat between Painswick Beacon and the Portway, the Roman road to Gloucester. There he lived
out the remainder of his days, praying for peace for his land and absolution of his sins. He was buried in a mound on Kite’s Hill overlooking the country he’d loved. That mound, Idel’s Tump or Idel Barrow, is very hard to find among the trees in Pope’s Wood. It’s said to mark the point where the boundaries of the three parishes of Upton St Leonards, Painswick, and Cranham meet. If his barrow is lost, Eddel himself remains, a lonely becloaked figure haunting the lane that winds down from Painswick Beacon, past the Royal William, to Eddell’s Mill and Tocknells Court.
Eddel isn’t the only king to have experienced a sense of loss hereabouts. In 1643 the arrival of a Parliamentarian army forced Charles I and his army to retreat to Painswick Beacon, where they spent a cold and wet night. In the morning, the young Charles, Prince of Wales asked his father when they were going home; the King bleakly told him, “My son, we have no home.” Seven years later, on the run after the Battle of Worcester, Charles II is said to have spent another stormy night on the Beacon. Descending to a nearby hamlet, he received such a warm welcome that he declared the place was ‘Paradise’, a name it has borne ever since! Anthony Nanson and Kirsty Hartsiotis are Stroud-based storytellers and writers. Their books include Gloucestershire Folk Tales, Wiltshire Folk Tales, and Gloucestershire Ghost Tales. Kirsty is also the curator of decorative and fine art at The Wilson, Cheltenham. Anthony teaches at Bath Spa University and runs the small press Awen Publications.
ABOVE: Heading down to Cranham and the Painswick Stream
View across to Sudeley Castle
Lovely Tocknells Court from the other side of Painswick Stream
Sheep in Paradise